July 31, 2007

The Hits Just Keep on Comin'

Four Inquiries Face Spitzer in Bruno Case
By DANNY HAKIM and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE - NEW YORK TIMES

ALBANY, July 30 — Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration is facing the possibility of as many as four investigations following a scathing report issued a week ago by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, a reality that could tie up many of the governor’s top staff members in legal wrangling for months to come.

On Monday, the Republican-led Senate called for Mr. Cuomo to be designated a special prosecutor with broader powers to investigate the governor and his staff for their efforts to discredit Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate leader. The governor quickly rejected the request, but the Senate’s move and the governor’s swift reaction appeared to embolden Senate Republicans to begin an investigation of their own.

In addition, the State Ethics Commission is conducting a preliminary review in advance of a potential investigation. Republicans have also called for the State Commission of Investigation, an independent body created in the 1950s and initially charged with investigating organized crime, to review the conduct of the governor and his staff. A spokesman for the commission declined to comment.

The office of P. David Soares, the Albany County district attorney, also said on Monday that it was likely to comment further on the case later this week. Mr. Soares, a Democrat, has indicated that he was not reviewing the matter, even though Senate Republicans have asked that he do so.

Calls for new inquiries have accumulated in the week since Mr. Cuomo’s office issued its report finding that the governor’s staff had misused the State Police to collect information about Mr. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative article about him in the news media. The report concluded that no laws had been broken, and Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, has maintained that he was misled by his staff and knew nothing about the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno, the state’s top Republican.

The state inspector general, Kristine Hamann, concurred in the attorney general’s findings; she is one of the governor’s appointees. The governor indefinitely suspended his communications director, Darren Dopp, and reassigned another aide after the report was released.

Senate Republicans have been considering how to proceed with a further inquiry. Though top Republicans say they are confident they would win any legal battle over their right to subpoena the governor, his aides and their correspondence, they are concerned that it is likely to take months to resolve such disputes, let alone uncover new information. They are also concerned that a full investigation by the Senate would so poison the atmosphere in Albany that little progress could be made on other issues.

On Monday afternoon, Senator George H. Winner Jr., the chairman of the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, called on the governor to designate Mr. Cuomo a special prosecutor, giving him the power to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony. During the attorney general’s investigation leading to his report, two of the governor’s top staff members declined to be interviewed at the direction of the governor’s counsel, one factor that has led for calls for a fuller review.

The governor has apologized publicly and said it is time to move on.

Several Republican senators interviewed Monday cited polls published during the last few days showing strong support for further inquiry into the Spitzer administration and widespread doubt that the governor himself was unaware of his aides’ actions. Though the polls also show generally high approval of Mr. Spitzer, Republicans seemed confident that they could move fairly aggressively with public sentiment behind them.

Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican who is a member of the investigations committee, said, “The public wants an investigation.”

Even as Mr. Winner made his announcement, however, leading Senate Democrats
questioned whether the investigations committee could handle a Spitzer inquiry fairly.

Thomas K. Duane, a Manhattan senator and the committee’s ranking Democrat, said Mr. Winner had yet to contact him or respond to a letter he sent last week outlining conditions that would need to be met for any committee investigation to proceed fairly.

“I think that at the very least, there’s a very problematic appearance if a committee, the majority of whose members are appointed by Senator Bruno, would be in charge of an investigation of something when Senator Bruno was the offended party,” Mr. Duane said.

11 comments:

Scott Leffler said...

If the two sides are Joe Bruno and Eliot Spitzer, I'll easily side with Spitzer. The Senate, as a whole, is worthless and have been for some time. As an earlier response to another post indicated - if Spitzer ends up neutered, we lose. Joe Bruno is more of the same and that's what we're trying to get away from. And for all the Spitzer bashing you would think that Pataki had accomplished something in 12 years ...

Pirate's Code said...

Scott -- "Side with Spitzer" is exactly what Spitzer is hoping for, but this is more than a Bruno v. Spitzer issue. Disliking Joe Bruno shouldn't make this any less wrong.

This is about a governor who campaigned, in part, on a platform of reform, about ending the days of cronyism, about changing the way Albany does business. Yet, just seven months into his tenure, his office pulls a purely political ploy and then cries "it's all politics" when the other side wants to call him on it.

Joe Bruno may well be a dinosaur, but this isn't about Joe Bruno. The image of the "Sheriff of Wall Street" has taken a serious hit, and his backers would love nothing better than you and I thinking this is a Bruno vs. Spitzer deal.

Deflection, deflection, deflection.

This is the stuff that happens when a politician begins to think he or she is bullet-proof. Party affiliation or ideology doesn't matter.

Besides, if this had been Pataki's people, do you really think Shelly Silver would let it slide?

If the reaction of the GOP is to stall state government, that will be too bad. But it was the initial action that created the reaction.

As always in Albany -- there is plenty of blame to go around.

Larry S said...

Nice "Rodeo Clowen", Scott. Typical Demo garbage, when your guy does something wrong, as Spitzer has, point do a Republican.

Say all you want about Pataki, no one needed a special investigator for him 6 months into the job. Or over 12 years for that matter.

Scott Leffler said...

Let's not forget that the reason Spitzer was having Bruno tailed is because Bruno was misusing state resources. If this were Spitzer having Shelly Silver tailed, you would all love it ... as would I. But since Bruno the dinosaur is a Republican, you'll rally around him. We need change. And we need to get rid of Bruno to get it. And, I'm sorry, but the Senate's reaction IS political. Your inability to see that says a lot to me. Get 'em Eliot.

Vintage said...

I read an insightful column by Bob Confer in the newspaper today about how the Senate is trying to pass legislation to protect crime victims. Of course, the Assembly is stalling.

So maybe it's too easy to sit back and say "the Senate is worthless" without taking a look at the real dynamics of state politics...

Unless you think the Assembly is worthless, too?

Oh, and it seems like Spitzer is one misusing resources like the State Police. He was trying to make political hay and it completely backfired.

But, of course, Spitzer didn't know anything about this whole ordeal. Yeah, right.

EVERYTHING is political.

Scott Leffler said...

Vintage, I also think the Assembly is worthless. Both bodies simply act at the whim of their respective leaders and until that system (or at least those leaders) change, we're going to pay dearly.

I'm kind of disappointed, frankly, that Spitzer didn't just own up: "Yeah, I sicked the cops on him. He's using a state helicopter for personal business."

And, of course, you are correct that everything is political. That's what makes it all so fun to watch (and mock).

Pirate's Code said...

Leffler -- I'm not pro-GOP or anti-DEM on this one, but let's be clear that AG Cuomo reported that Bruno's use of state aircraft was perfectly legal and within the bounds of the state's rules. Is it silly that any of them are allowed to do it? Of course. Cuomo said that, as well. But Bruno did nothing illegal (at least not on this issue).

Spitzer's staff was found to have concocted a story of complying with a FOIL request from the Albany paper, when no such request was ever made. Instead, they attempted to plant a story to smear a political enemy of Spitzer.

Spitzer has a reputation as a micro-manager who knows everything that goes on around him. That two of his chief aides could do this -- and involve the head of the State Police -- without the Gov having at least a hint just doesn't pass the laugh test.

More troubling to me, though, is the notion that all this is somehow OK because Bruno is a (insert negative adjective here).

Doesn't matter if it was Bruno, or Silver, or anyone else who was the subject of the attempted smear -- what Spitzer's staff did (perhaps with Spitzer's knowledge, perhaps not) is wrong and no amount of deflection will change that.

I get tired of the "what he did was OK because the other guy sucks more" political world we find ourselves in in NY. Both sides do it, we let them get away with it, and dysfunction is one of the outcomes.

Spitzer ran -- and won big -- as a reformer. As the saying goes -- "Physician, heal thyself."

You're first post said, "if the two sides are Joe Bruno and Eliot Spitzer, I'll easily side with Spitzer." Seems to me that the two sides in this, at least initially, are Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo. Now who (whom?) do you side with?

Pirate's Code said...

By the way, Scott, the AG's report can be found here:

http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2007/jul/jul23a_07.html

Let me quote the salient points from the summary:

"Part I of this Report describes the results of the OAG’s investigation concerning the use of the State Police in relation to Senator Bruno’s travel records. As set forth in Part I, the OAG found no evidence that the State Police conducted actual surveillance of Senator Bruno. As explained below, however, the investigation has raised serious issues about the State Police’s handling of documents and information concerning Senator Bruno’s travel, at the direction of the Governor’s liaison to the State Police (“Governor’s liaison”).

"Part II of this Report describes the results of the OAG’s investigation concerning Senator Bruno’s use of state aircraft. With respect to that issue, the investigation has shown that Senator Bruno’s use of state aircraft was in accordance with existing regulations and procedures. Nevertheless, the OAG recommends that these policies and procedures be changed to ensure more specificity."

Mr. Pink said...

Ultimately, Spitzer will be judged by the results he gets, but he seems to run the Governor's Office with an ends justify the means approach. Unfortunately in public office, the means do matter. Just because Bruno doesn't agree doesn't mean you can be out to get him.

As for the Senate, do we really want all three branches of government controlled by one party. Didn't the Republican debacle in in Washington teach us that there is some merit to divided government?

Remember, "no man's life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in Session." Nothing getting done isn't a bad thing considering when things get done more often
than not it costs us money.

Scott Leffler said...

Pink,

I do not think the ends justify the means and I used that same phrase when discussing this very topic on my show last week.

I also do not want one party controlling both the senate and the assembly ... plus the executive. it's destructive. i'm not saying get rid of the GOP in the senate. Just get Bruno out of the power position he's in. I would also like more Republicans in the Assembly ... to take Sheldon Silver down a notch.

Mr. Pink said...

Scott,

Changes in leadership would certainly bring in a fresh perspective.

Bruno & Silver have been in power for more than a decade which at the very least breeds stagnation.

On a related note, you should continue to post the link to your podcast on shows that relate to topics we're discussing here. I enjoyed the LaBarbera show and am not in the car often enough to catch you regularly.